Anti-Ambush Weapons

I knew I wasn’t imagining things

for many years, I distinctly remember reading about an “Anti-Ambush” weapon used in Rhodesia and South Africa back in the 70’s.  I remember reading about it in SOF Magazine, but going through what back issues of their magazine I have available to me I couldn’t FIND the article.

Well, I’ve been searching and looking and bothering people about if they have any information about it, (Ian at Forgotten Weapons, Rock Island Arsenal Museum, and quite a few others) I probably made a pest of myself over this particular weapon.

Finally I was doing some reading about Rhodesian Anti-Mining vehicles and there in one of the articles was a picture of the Pookie, with weapon on the front bonnet.

The weapon in question was called “The Spider” and it’s various incarnations would have anywhere from 8 to 36, 12 gauge barrels which could be fired either remotely or from inside a vehicle with a handcrank.

Do you see that thing under the windscreen?  That looks like a bunch of pipes pointing out, THAT is “The Spider”.  that particular version had 8-16 barrels, that covered a 270 degree arc in front of the vehicle and was remotely fired from the cab of the Pookie.  Imagine facing THAT.  And having 16 barrels loaded with #4 buck suddenly firing at you.

Now in the original article I read many, many, MANY years ago, it was mentioned that the Terrs as they were called, put out a contract on the head of the person who designed “The Spider”, because it WAS so effective in breaking up an ambush.

Now there was also a version of the spider that had 3 rings of barrels, one stacked on top of the other, with the top most stack horizontal, the ones below it aim about 5 degrees down to give proper coverage.  Hit ’em high and hit ’em low and hit ’em in between.

For a vehicles in convoy, the lead vehicle would only have the the front and side barrels loaded, the vehicles behind would only have the side barrel loaded and the tail vehicle would have the rear and side barrels loaded.  That way they wouldn’t have any “Friendly Fire” incidents.

Imagine, having 36 barrels, 360 degrees of arc covered, and you could fill all 360 degrees with lead just by turning a crank inside your vehicle.  Using #4 shot that’s 972 .24 or 6.1 mm diameter pieces of lead traveling at over 800 FPS weighing almost 21 grains each.  And you could do that in less than 3 seconds.

Back to my story.

I went from tha article linked under the picture of Pookie, to some judicious use of Google Search terms and I found out there was an article written about Anti Ambush Weapons, used in Rhodesia, and “The Spider” had a decent write up in it with a few good pictures of the device.

That is where I ran into a brick wall.

There are NO, ZERO, NONE, NADA, copies of that article currently available on-line.  I wanted to bang my head on my keyboard.  I was SOOOOooooooooo Close, but I couldn’t find an on-line source for the article.

However, I did find, that hard copy of the article exists, after looking it up in the World Catalog, which lead me to a library in Europe.  And They HAD the periodical in question.  Hmmm however, they are in “Europe”, I’m in Texas.  How could I get a copy of the article, without it costing me an arm and a leg?

Well, I just asked.  I sent them an e-mail explaining that I’m trying to locate information about this particular system and inquiring how I could get either photocopies or a scanned PDF of it.

Three days later, I got a response, with a PDF copy of the article in question attached.

And they didn’t even charge me for it.  For which I am truly grateful.  The young lady who responded and sent the PDF told me that it was a one time thing and if I needed help in the future I would have to pay for the time of the Librarian and any copies or computer time.  And I agree with that, it takes TIME to scan in something and to ensure it scans in legibly and at a good resolution.  I know, I’ve done it in the past when I scanned in a bunch of stuff for, (When you have a bunch of 100+ year old books that have been in your family’s personal library and are somewhat rare you kinda want to get them out there for others to read)  So for scanning in the 27 pages and ensuring they are readable and the photo’s are properly discernible, I am eternally grateful to the lady who I shall NOT name.  (She’s MY contact pbbbttttt)

Anyway without further ado, here is the article after I extracted the pages and did just a few small touchups.

Below the fold to save on bandwidth.

I actually think this AK Gunship design is rather stupid myself.  The weapons are mounted outside of the vehicle and it only gives you the ability to fire in two or three directions if you hide one under the hood.  You have no way of changing the windage or the elevation without getting out of the vehicle.  Same for reloading.  I can possibly see a mini turret with one of the belt fed AR’s or even a belt fed .22 or AR in the pistol configuration.  If you set your elevation so it’s waist high at 30 meters, you should be good for any ambush situation.  And if you have a mini turret you an use the system below for your windage corrections.  Heck you can use a motor out of one of those power wheel Barbie Cars with a fwd/rev switch and a power switch to rotate your mini turret and a power door lock solenoid to actuate the trigger.  Set it with a ratchet mount inside the mini turret to be able to pull the weapon down to clear it and reload it you haven’t already linked all your ammo together.  Also you can put a cheap web cam or reverse/backup camera above the bore line and have that piped to you in the vehicle either on a dedicated screen/mini lcd TV or a lap top.

Hey the drop down barrel thing is sweet.  However there aren’t any good pictures of the “Release” mechanism.  It wouldn’t be too hard to make though.  It’s basically just a slam fire shotgun on a hinge with an end cap that has a small firing pin in it.  I wonder how much weight is necessary to hit the firing pin to set off a primer though.  I’m think they might have had quite a few misfire until they got the barrel length/weight just right to ensure it would fire EVERY TIME.

That IS just like a duckfoot pistol.  I know, I had two of the BP version of a duckfoot I got as kits.  That looks like it has a 90 degree arc of coverage.   If it’s set so pull one pin and they all fire in a chain fashion, it might not be as effective, because ambushers would realize that themselves and would know to approach from the side that would fire last.  that would give them enough time to get close enough to throw a grenade or take a shot at you.

Oh WOW!!  So there is probably one of the duckfoot type on the front and another on the very back.  and all operated by pulling a cable.  By my numbers that would be 6 cables to pull, unless you had it set up so you pull one and they ALL go.  But that might not be the most effective.  What if you only needed to to cover just one area, and you wanted to save your other barrels for any further ambushes down the road?  Especially since it would take 3-5minutes to reload and reset just ONE barrel, and you’ve got to reload 5-6 barrel on 6 different devices.  You don’t want to try to do that why you are being shot at.  Somebody could probably rig up an electrical solenoid to fire as few as 1 barrel or as many as 6 per device, but the control panel for that would be rather hard to operate in an ambush situation.

Here at the bottom of this page is where the entry on “The Spider” starts.

An original advertisement for “The Spider”

How many barrels on this version?  And I wanna see the inside of the breech block and the firing mechanism!!!!!

I think the one MAIN Disadvantage of this system is you can only reload it from OUTSIDE of the vehicle.  In the top photo above you can see the roof rack “The Spider” is mounted to.  In the second you can see that the breechblock is installed from the top and you can see the slotted cam for the handcrank which the breech mechanism sits on.  You can also see the beech mounting holes on the flange of the breechblock.

Well lookie there, right on the front of another “Pookie”

Here is the last part about “The Spider”, but the other stuff looks really interesting as well.

And the “Remote” gun below looks nice, but not a good as what we have today, however the tech is a LOT easier if you remove elevation controls.

Looks like an old fashioned black powder cannon to me.  Just electrically fired, which if you know what you are doing isn’t that hard.  And look at the blown out barrel at the top.  Somebody overloaded it for sure.

The Israeli’s have a large problem with rocket launcher made like this.  HAMAS will weld the barrel in under false bottoms of dump trucks and load the tubes with rockets to try to smuggle them into areas they can be launched against Israel.

The Holland-Hale and the Wattle Co cannons, I’d actually be scared of, unless “I” was the person in charge of them.  I’ve seen too many old BP muzzleloaders go KABOOM! because people either overloaded them or used the wrong powder.  And if you EVER use smokeless powder in a BP Muzzleloader, you deserve your Darwin Award.

They needed to add a “Deflector” to this in order to make sure it’s safe for going through occupied areas.  If you ask me, they didn’t design it right if they needed to add that.

HEY!!!  I built stuff like that when I was in the Army.  And we were SPECIFICALLY TOLD NOT to do it off base or without orders.  Unless we wanted to go to prison.

You’ve seen something like the “Wildcat” in the last James Bond Film “Skyfall”  The shotgun shells under the floor board. Although I can’t remember if the had any type of barrel to direct the shot upward or contain the shell so it would go off properly.

Anti-ambush weapons, 1975-1980 / by P.G. Locke – Heritage of Zimbabwe: (1993), no. 12, p. 61-85
Used under “Fair Use” 17 U.S.C. § 107 For commentary, criticism and education purposes.

By the way.  the author of this article wrote a book I am trying to find a copy of for my personal reference library.

Fighting vehicles and weapons of Rhodesia, 1965-80 Peter G. Locke, Peter D. F. Cooke ISBN13: 9780473024130 ISBN10: 0473024136

The Texas A&M Library in College Station in the Cushing Library has the book, but it’s a 4 hour drive for me to get there and I highly doubt they would let me sit there with my netbook and my scanner scanning the whole book in. I found one, ONE other copy in the UK, but the cost with shipping to me is over $180.00.  So if any of my readers sees it, let me know.  I’ll pay a reasonable cost to get a good edition of the book.


Author: Alfred E. Neuman

70 year old geek, ultra-conservative patriot.